Supporting the community during a pandemic

Tamara Tormohlen
Giving Thought
Tamara Tormohlen

About two weeks ago, the world as we know it changed.

To say the emergence of COVID-19 in our tri-county region has wreaked havoc is an understatement. Businesses have scaled back operations and some are completely shut down. Events and gatherings have been canceled. Schools are closed. Nonprofit organizations are unable to provide services. Thousands of people are out of work. Our economy has ground to a near halt.

Things are not normal.

The COVID-19 outbreak is, in essence, a disaster. One that, while not damaging to property or habitat, is threatening the safety, livelihood and well-being of people throughout the region. It wasn’t too long ago that our community was impacted by another disaster, the Lake Christine Fire in El Jebel and Basalt. And as with Lake Christine, Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) has jumped into action to help those impacted by this latest calamity.

ACF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the community, particularly on our vulnerable neighbors. We are in continual communication with our three counties’ public health and human services departments, school districts, family resource centers, food pantries and other nonprofit partners to identify specific needs and coordinate the community response efforts so they are as efficient and effective as possible.

In the immediate term, the safety and well-being of everyone in the community is the top priority. There has been a huge need for food, especially for our low-income, elderly or isolated neighbors. LIFT-UP and Food Bank of the Rockies have been packing boxes with groceries and distributing them between Parachute and Basalt. Aspen Family Connections has taken on the role of feeding people in Aspen and Pitkin County. In other parts of the region, school-based family resource centers are distributing food and helping connect families to economic assistance.

But we know that many will feel the impacts of this virus for months to come. In the coming weeks, thousands of people economically impacted by business closures, cancellations and the premature end to the ski season will be faced with rent, mortgage, utility payments and not enough money to cover these expenses. The county human services offices have assembled government resources to provide financial assistance to those in need. And for those who don’t qualify for government assistance, nonprofit organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and the River Center of New Castle stand ready.

ACF established the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund to channel needed resources to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the Aspen to Parachute region. Monies raised will be disbursed to nonprofit organizations meeting essential human needs such as food access, rent and utilities assistance and health care access for individuals and families impacted by the virus. More information can be found at

Throughout the region and state, other funds have been established to support various recovery efforts. Many of these are listed at

To help disseminate all the various information about local resources, events and volunteer needs, ACF is launching the Aspen to Parachute COVID Response website later this week.

The outpouring of support since COVID-19 landed in our community has been remarkable and is a true testament to the “can do” attitude of our community. We know many of you have reached out to volunteer your time. This show of compassion and altruism is wonderful. However, solving community problems during a pandemic requires a different type of volunteerism.

We are all being asked to socially distance or isolate ourselves to minimize the spread of the virus. In-person volunteering has the potential to make things worse, so there are not a lot of these types of volunteer opportunities at the moment. However, if you are called to volunteer, here are a few tips to consider, be responsible and educate yourself on the latest public safety guidelines and adhere strictly to them. Also, be respectful and only volunteer if you have the capacity to be patient and compassionate with others and can model a sense of calm whether in person (6 feet away, on the phone or online).

Finally, be resourceful. There are many different ways you can support our community during these times. You can check on your neighbor. Write notes to the people in your neighborhood and drop at their door. Ask them to email or call you for a check in. What are they worried about? How are they doing? Collect these names and numbers and reach out each week.

You can donate. Nonprofit organizations are working hard to respond to the needs emerging from this crisis. Money will not relieve all the pressure but pooling even our small amount of dollars can help to keep our neighbors from real despair.

Most importantly, you can take care of yourself and your family. Wash your hands, stay home, take walks, go virtual, establish a routine that becomes the new normal for the time being.

Keeping healthy and virus-free is the best way to give back to our community during this pandemic crisis.

Tamara Tormohlen is the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.